Brad Keselowski wins at Talladega with last-lap pass of Matt DiBenedetto

·5 min read
TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 25: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 MoneyLion Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series  GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 25, 2021 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski celebrates after winning at Talladega. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Brad Keselowski has his sixth Talladega win. He's the ninth winner of 2021. That's pretty nice. 

Keselowski passed Matt DiBenedetto just after the white flag to get his first win of the season at Talladega on Sunday. Keselowski expertly navigated the race's final two laps after a flat tire on Martin Truex's car caused an overtime restart.

DiBenedetto was the leader on the final restart and had Keselowski behind him as they headed to the white flag. But DiBenedetto moved up to block Ryan Blaney and Keselowski went ahead of him on the inside with help from Michael McDowell. 

You may remember that McDowell and Keselowski were main characters at the end of the Daytona 500. Keselowski went to pass Team Penske teammate Joey Logano on the final lap and Logano blocked the move. That block came nearly simultaneously as a push from McDowell. Keselowski and Logano collided and McDowell escaped the crash to get the first win of his career in NASCAR's biggest race. 

Logano, meanwhile, had his car go airborne near the end of the first stage. Keselowski was officially in that wreck as he tried to avoid it. As Keselowski went low to avoid the crash he got hit on the right side. But his car never hit the wall and wasn't damaged significantly enough to affect it.

There was a wreck on the final lap in this race. Multiple crashes, in fact. But they all happened behind the lead and NASCAR didn't throw a caution. Chris Buescher got into the wall, Erik Jones went spinning into the outside wall in the trioval and Ross Chastain hit the inside wall past the finish line. 

The win means Keselowski is tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the second-most wins at Talladega. And it means he still has a ways to go to catch Dale Earnhardt. The Intimidator won 10 times at the famed Alabama track and the final win of his career came at Talladega in the fall of 2000. 

So how many winners will there be?

Keselowski's win isn't a surprise. He was one of the favorites entering the race because of his past Talladega success and it seemed inevitable that he would get a win at some point in 2021. He's too good to go winless.

We still have to talk about his win's impacts on the playoff field. Nine of the 16 spots in the Cup Series playoffs are provisionally reserved through 10 races. That's a first in NASCAR's playoff era. And there are bound to be more winners this year.

Points leader Denny Hamlin hasn't won. Neither has Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch or Chase Elliott. They will all probably win a race before the playoffs begin. That means the playoffs will likely start with at least 13 winners.

Will there be more? Maybe. The second Daytona race is the regular-season finale. There are road course races at Circuit of the Americas, Road America and Indianapolis in addition to races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen before the playoffs begin. A surprise winner or a few could emerge from those six races. 

But it continues to be unlikely there will be 16 or more winners through the first 26 races. Someone is bound to go on a hot streak and win a few races. That sure seems a lot more likely than a driver like McDowell winning a race and missing the playoffs because 17 drivers won races. 

Kyle Larson's very short and very bad day

If you're going to have a bad day at Talladega you might as well get it over quickly.

Kyle Larson finished last after his car started overheating on the second lap. And that overheating problem ended up ending Larson's race.

Larson rejoined the race three laps down after he rejoined the race three laps down after pitting for his team to diagnose the problem. And that problem got worse. Larson's engine immediately went bad and he had to retire from the race. He completed a grand total of three laps.

Race results

1. Brad Keselowski

2. William Byron

3. Michael McDowell

4. Kevin Harvick

5. Matt DiBenedetto

6. Kaz Grala

7. Tyler Reddick

8. Austin Dillon

9. Ryan Blaney

10. Cole Custer

11. Chase Briscoe

12. Anthony Alfredo

13. Ryan Newman

14. Ryan Preece

15. Aric Almirola

16. Ross Chastain

17. Christopher Bell

18. Kyle Busch

19. Bubba Wallace

20. Harrison Burton

21. Chris Buescher

22. Corey LaJoie

23. Daniel Suarez

24. Chase Elliott

25. BJ McLeod

26. JJ Yeley

27. Erik Jones

28. Cody Ware

29. Timmy Hill

30. Justin Haley

31. Martin Truex Jr.

32. Denny Hamlin

33. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

34. Joey Gase

35. Kurt Busch

36. Josh Bilicki

37. Quin Houff

38. Alex Bowman

39. Joey Logano

40. Kyle Larson

Points standings

1. Denny Hamlin, 446

2. Martin Truex Jr., 359

3. Joey Logano, 353

4. William Byron, 351

5. Ryan Blaney, 346

6. Brad Keselowski, 318

7. Kevin Harvick, 308

8. Chase Elliott, 306

9. Kyle Larson, 300

10. Christopher Bell, 280

11. Kyle Busch, 271

12. Austin Dillon, 268

13. Michael McDowell, 244

14. Alex Bowman, 241

15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 229

15. Chris Buescher, 229

17. Matt DiBenedetto, 217

18. Kurt Busch, 216

19. Ryan Newman, 198

20. Bubba Wallace, 196

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